4Q20 Update

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It’s that time of year when the writers in blog land update how they did during the prior year. Like last year, I plan to split this topic into two parts. Below is how I did in the fourth quarter. Next time I’ll write about my 2020 totals, how those compared to my 2020 goals, before finishing with my 2021 goals. Got to think about those last things though.

First, here are the numbers for 4Q20.

  • Words written = 27,201
  • Submissions = 25
  • Rejections = 31
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Holds = 0
  • Publications = 2
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

I had a monster quarter word-wise. Looking back, that’s the most I’ve written in any quarter since I started this writing journey. NaNoWriMo was good to me. I flew through writing the middle grade book that was my goal for NaNoWriMo. Since I still had eight days left in November, I hammered out two flash stories and one 2000 word short story. By then I had run out of ideas that I had developed. I’m not a pantser. Though I have numerous other story ideas, I like to develop them before sitting down to write. So I started working on my memoir. Those events already happened; no need to develop them.

Finally, for good measure, in December, I wrote a 3000 word story in response to a prompt for the December meeting of the Northern Virginia Writers Club. The prompt was to take a character from one of my existing works and put the character in a holiday setting. I got carried away and took a story idea I already had and wrote a story mirroring A Christmas Carol. Might as well borrow from a classic.

I had no acceptances this quarter, which broke my streak of at least one acceptance a quarter. That was the biggest disappointment. I did have two stories published, which is always a thrill. “Temporally Out of Service” (my first published reprint) was included in the anthology The Trouble with Time Trouble, and “Shadow” found its way into Night Terrors Vol. 6. The editors of the latter were so encouraged by the reader responses that they invited authors to submit for an upcoming volume. I took advantage and sent in a horror short story I had written over the summer but hadn’t finalized until being motivated by this submission call. Hopefully, that will lead to my first acceptance of 2021. A writer can dream.

That was my fourth quarter, a strong end to a strange, strange year. How did you end the oddest year of our lifetime?

Flash Fiction Workshop

My Writers Club hosted an excellent flash fiction workshop last week. We invited local author, editor, and teacher Tara Campbell to lead the workshop. Another club member and I had attended a writing salon she taught at the National Gallery of Art. Space is limited for those, but if you’re in the DC area, I recommend attending. I left with most of a flash story drafted. Though I’m still shopping that piece around, I’m proud of the outcome.

This time, Tara led a shorter workshop focusing on three types of flash stories. The first task was to produce a story about an ordinary, everyday ceremony but with a twist. The second was to write something autobiographical about a time in our life when we experienced anxiety. The final story was to be something procedural, like a recipe or some other set of instructions but embedding a story therein.

We were given 10 minutes to write each time. And darned if I didn’t come up with ideas for each immediately and get most of a story for each on the screen in that time. The next day I finished all three and polished them a little, but most of the stories were there already. I’d count that as a productive workshop, and if you need inspiration, I recommend using the same three scenarios as the basis of for three stories.

In the interest of full disclosure, these stories are not long. They aren’t even typical flash length. Two are 200 words and the third is 300. However, I think each is a complete, self-contained story. I don’t have any plans to flesh them out further. I like them the way they are.

I intend to shop them around to the flash fiction markets. I haven’t had a flash piece accepted yet. Maybe one or more of these will break that logjam.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve attended a flash fiction workshop and whether you were pleased with the results. Did you get one or more stories out of it? Did you have any success in getting those stories published?

More Shameless Self Promotion

It finally happened. The Virginia Writers Club got its act together and posted not only the winners of the 2018 Golden Nib Writing Contest but also the winning entries. The collected winners can be found here.

As I’ve mentioned before, I took third place in the nonfiction category. I was happy to get that. I had written my short essay (under 1000 words) for another market, which didn’t accept it, and only put it in for consideration in last year’s contest on a lark. Looking back, I’m glad I did. Having focused on speculative fiction, I’m not sure what other nonfiction markets are out there for this type of essay.

Now as the 2019 president of the Northern Virginia chapter of the club, I’m excluded from participating in this year’s contest. I’m not terribly upset by this, though I am pleased that winners going forward will finally be announced and their works posted, which was supposed to be a selling point of the contest from the start.

Peruse the other winners and see what you think. You can let me know what you think about mine as well. I can take it.

Post #45 – Award Winning Author

11/1/18

I received a call last month informing me I won third place in the Virginia Writers Club‘s Golden Nib contest. The club will officially announce the winners tomorrow night at its annual meeting, which I already planned to attend. Shhh, don’t tell anyone that I spilled the beans early.

I’ve written about this contest before in Posts 8 & 29. Submitting a short story to last year’s contest was one of the reasons I joined the Northern Virginia chapter of the Club.

This year I skipped submitting a piece in the fiction category but submitted pieces in the nonfiction and poetry categories. The nonfiction work is the one that placed third.

I chose not to submit a fiction piece because I considered that a waste. For one, I didn’t want a story tied up for three months while I awaited the results. I also didn’t want to give up first publication rights to anything I have available. I’d rather retain those rights in the hope a pro or semi-pro market wants to buy the story. Lastly, I didn’t really have anything available to submit.

If I remember correctly, at the deadline, all of my fiction stories were out at other markets. I pretty much chose not to withhold anything earlier in the year in anticipation of submitting to the Golden Nib, and instead kept sending out stories to new markets immediately after each rejection.

But I didn’t feel the same way about my nonfiction and poetry. I’ve only written two in the former category and one in the latter. I didn’t have markets in mind for either the nonfiction piece or poem, so submitting them to the Golden Nib contest seemed appropriate.

Now I’m an award winning author! But is that a thing? Third place in the VWC Golden Nib contest isn’t quite on par with the Nebula, Hugo, or Locust. Win those and you truly are an award winning author.

I know other authors tout their award winning status, but I’m not sure I feel the need to do so in this context. I’m not sure it gets me anywhere. It doesn’t help me reach my goal of three pro sales for SFWA membership.

Maybe I’ll feel differently when I win first place next year. Or maybe when I win the Nebula, Hugo, or Locust.

Let me know in the comments when you think it’s worth trumpeting an award as an author.

Photo credit: 3dman_eu via Pixabay

Post #29 – Do I or Don’t I?

7/12/18

The 2018 Golden Nib contest of the Virginia Writers Club is upon us. Chapter level entries were due by June 30. The winners from each chapter are judged and sent on to the state level by August 13, with the winners announced at the annual meeting in November.

As mentioned in Post #8, I question the rationale for submitting to this contest. On the one hand, there is the chance of being dubbed an “award winning author.” On the other hand, winning means I can’t submit that story to another market, unless the market accepts reprints, because the Virginia Writers Club asks for first publication rights. The problem is the Club hasn’t published the winning stories in years, not even as a PDF on the Club’s website.

One of the reasons I joined the Club last year when I did was to submit to this contest. I feel I’ve gained so much more by joining the Club while the contest has diminished in importance. I’m reluctant to give up first publication rights when there is no guarantee of publication.

When I addressed this issue previously, I noted becoming an award winning author doesn’t get me closer to my goal of being a member of the SFWA. If that truly is my goal, then other possible accolades are irrelevant.

An additional factor to weigh when submitting is the story length. The limit for the Golden Nib contest is 3500 words. That’s fairly short for the stories I write. One thought I had was to write the story I mentioned in Post #22 that fit a specific call for submissions, the deadline for which was the end of June. If I could have hammered that out in June, I expected it to be 3500 or less. That story likely is too specific to the call for submissions to submit to other markets. While I had the story idea, unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to write it. I focused on my novella instead.

The contest has three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A Club member may submit one work in each. So what did I do?

First, I submitted a poem. It’s the only poem I’ve written since high school, and I’ve never submitted it anywhere.

Next, I submitted a nonfiction piece, again, my only one to this point. I’ve submitted this piece a couple of times and received the corresponding rejections. It’s currently out at a market that accepts simultaneous submission, so I decided to submit it to the contest as well. If it’s selected by either venue, I’ll withdraw from the other.

What about the fiction category? I decided not to submit. The choice was made easy for two reasons. I either didn’t have a story short enough to fit, or for those that were short enough, they currently are under consideration at markets that do not accept simultaneous submission. As I mentioned in Post #24, read and reread the submission guidelines.

Let me know in the comments if you think I should have tried harder to submit a fiction piece (i.e. write a specific story for the contest), publication rights be damned.

Photo credit: qimono via Pixabay